Darla Jackson, This will hurt me more than it hurts you

When I was in the sixth grade, around 11-12 years old, there was a girl who made me very, very angry. We will call her Mary Jo.

Our grade was sorted into color groups, which didn’t make sense at first until you realized it had to do with what you were learning, how you were graded, and so on. I was in orange, and there was also blue, red, and purple. Turns out the oranges were the smarties. The purples…not so much. Mary Jo was a purple. She was also very popular. And very mean.

Children were bussed in fairly early, and before classes would start for the day, I would sit outside my homeroom door reading. That and along with the the fact I read during class, at recess and lunch, on the bus going home, naturally I was thought of as a bookworm, but I never thought it was a bad thing. I was actually really proud of how much I read! And then one day Mary Jo, who was in some sort of after-school thing with one of my younger sisters, said to her something along the lines of “your sister’s a NERD.” And not in an admiring way. In really nasty way, like she was trying to shame my sister into feeling bad about who and how I was.

I could handle being picked on myself, but using my sister as a punching bag? I was INCENSED. I was also a weenie and not being a confrontational or violent person, I never did anything about it… but for years afterward, I dreamed about walking up to Mary Jo and without saying a word, punching her square in the face.

Incidentally, it was around this age that I began getting cat-called and harassed by much, much older men. Freaked out and furious, I would daydream, in waking hours, about punching their faces, too.

Darla Jackson, This will hurt me more than it hurts you

When I first saw Darla Jackson’s birdie knuckleduster sculpt, This Will Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You, all of that long-ago anger and fear came back to me, all at once. Darla’s work resonates with that feeling of childhood unease – the disconnect between the safe, sunny stories we’re fed of what being a kid should look like, alongside the complexities of the real world.

Says Darla: “A four bird knuckle duster is where Snow White meets GhostFace Killah in my head. Cute but intimidating at the same time, it’s meant to offer ideas of protection and self defense that are so often needed yet usually suspiciously absent in portrayals of women in popular culture (I’m looking at you Disney movies!). The title, “This will hurt me more than it hurts you”, is a reference to the fact that women are often criticized for standing up for themselves.”

It’s one of those rare works of art that hit me in the gut and the heart simultaneously, and I was thrilled many years later when she permitted me to include the work in my book The Art of Darkness: A Treasury of the Morbid, Melancholic, and Macabre. And truly, there there’s something undeniably dark about this implement of fairy-tale violence both cute and intimidating. It’s saccharine and savage in equal measure, a weaponized quartet threatening both cuddles and carnage.

This, in a nutshell, is the captivating world of Darla Jackson’s sculptures.

Darla Jackson, Lost // The Water’s At Your Neck


Darla Jackson, The Nothing

This darkness lurks beneath the surface of Darla Jackson’s work. Not a brooding, gothic kind of darkness, but a sly, knowing one. It peeks out from the wide, porcelain eyes of her creatures, often rendered in clay with a disconcerting softness. These aren’t the friendly innocence of Snow White’s forest animal menagerie – they’re vessels for complex emotions, silent observers of a world, creations that are equal parts charming and disturbing.  It’s a clever strategy – by using creatures as proxies, she avoids the baggage of human representation, allowing viewers to connect with the raw emotions on display, unfiltered by the pesky trappings of, well…people.

Darla Jackson, It All Comes Out Wrong Anyway
Darla Jackson, A Dangerous Expedition // A Damned Fine Game

A shaper of narratives with a knack for capturing vulnerability through the animal kingdom, she meticulously collects fragments of inspiration – a photograph, a song lyric, a fleeting observation at the zoo – and molds this wellspring of ideas together into a cohesive whole, unquiet critters and foreboding fauna that provoke and compel in equal measure.

Darla Jackson, CHAMBER XIX Bring the motherfucking ruckus


I was extremely intrigued by Darla’s little avian iron maiden, that to my eyes, looks like its spiky insides are caked with coppery dried blood. If you ask me, this is where all cat-callers belong. About this one Darla says:

“As a kid, I was always obsessed with medieval torture devices…I couldn’t wrap my head around how people could do something like that to one another. The same goes for how people treat one another to this day, verbally, emotionally… I suppose I’m very interested in how people treat one another and even more so, how people treat themselves, often being harder on themselves than anyone else could be.”

Darla Jackson, Counterpoint


Darla Jackson, CHAMBER I You are born, ok

Whether it’s a rabbit in a crow mask or winged things packing a punch, Darla’s sculptures remind us that vulnerability doesn’t negate strength. By embodying complex emotions in these animalistic forms, she invites viewers to explore their own vulnerabilities and grapple with the realities of the world, both beautiful and brutal. Whether it’s the memory of childhood bullies or the ever-present threat of harassment, these sculptures give voice to the unspoken anxieties we carry within, and with a little Darla Jackson-esque grit, we can all face the world, birdy knuckledusters at the ready, prepared to defend ourselves and rewrite the narratives that try to limit us.

Darla Jackson, A Place To Come Home To

BONUS! I always love to get to know the artists in my books as whole people, with lives and interests beyond their art (as incredible and fascinating as that art might be!) I am going to make more of an effort to include an extra little tidbit or two in these artist spotlights in the future, and starting today, I thought I would ask Darla about…perfume! Because OF COURSE.

According to Darla, these are some of her favorites!

  • Ok, so one of my first favorites is Bourbon by Hans Hendley. I was drawn to the idea that it was oak aged and made me think of an old fashioned, which is my adult beverage of choice. I am also very fond of his Amora but Bourbon has my heart.
  • Next is Smoked Jasmine Black Tea by Marissa Zappas. This one grabbed me and it smells deliciously sophisticated.
  • La Labo’s Vetiver is lovely and always the perfect answer when I’m not sure what to wear.
  • Imaginary Authors Cape Heartache’s combination of berry and pine makes me feel all the emotions.
  • Trompette 8 is my very favorite perfume. Made by Filippo Sorcinelli, it has all the smoky notes I want in a perfume and his packaging is always stunning. His Unum Laavs is amazing too.
Darla Jackson, How it feels (Tiger’s Eye Edition)


Darla currently has a collaborative exhibition, along with Paul Romano at Arch Enemy Arts…

LAMENT + BLOOM is the second installment of HOLD SACRED, a multi-part collaborative series. It is a collection of sculptures, installations, and paintings inspired by “the idea of what is sacred” while navigating the emotional aftermath of loss. Together, Jackson and Romano ask what thoughts, objects, concepts and relationships do they hold dear; what do they cherish and sanctify while “growing through grief?”

Find Darla Jackson: Website // Instagram


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